It was a tale of two halves in Indianapolis tonight. The Suns were on fire in the first half and thoroughly owned the Pacers, dropping a season high 66 points on them. The Pacers made a game of it in the third quarter by ratcheting up the defensive intensity and finally getting some shots to fall. That intensity continued into the 4th quarter. Despite a run by the Suns to get the lead up to 11 early, Indiana continued to keep the game close, cutting the lead to 1 on a few occasions.
But at the end of the night, the Suns NEVER TRAILED TO THE PACERS AT HOME. (Ed. note: I got excited. The Suns trailed 2-0 and 6-4 in the first quarter. But they led from the 7:44 mark on. Please don't sue me.) Despite only scoring 36 points in the second half, the Phoenix Suns defeated the Indiana Pacers by a score of 102-94. Goran Dragi? and Lance Stephenson both made their displeasure known about the All-Star reserve selections with monster games. Stephenson had a triple double (14 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds), while The Dragon abused George Hill to the tune of 28 points and 7 assists. Gerald Green and Marcus Morris had 16 apiece and Markieff Morris finished with 15. For the Pacers, Roy Hibbert had the big game with 26 points. P.J. Tucker was on Paul George like white on rice, holding the All-Star to 12 points on 5-17 shooting.
It was a good if tense night, Suns fans. Read on for the details and celebrate!
This game figured to be a great duel between a pair of All-Star snubbees in Goran Dragi? and Lance Stephenson. Both players came out with aggressive drives to the hoop. Stephenson's resulted in an assist to David West for a lay-up and Dragi? with an and-1 that he missed the FT on. The refs made their presence felt early and often. Luis Scola made an early appearance when David West picked up 2 fouls in the first 2 minutes. Indiana was also careless with the ball, committing 3 turnovers in the first 3 minutes. The Suns were unable to capitalize though. Dragi? did not seemed to affected by the elbow early, driving fearlessly into the lane early. He was clearly looking to take the game to the Pacers.
After falling behind 6-4, Goran Dragi? and Gerald Green went on a 9-0 run to take a 13-6 lead and forcing Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel to call a timeout. Indiana hung tough crashing the offensive boards, but the Suns played tough D and attacked the Pacers in the paint punctuated by a Gerald Green dunk and P.J. Tucker fast-break floater, maintaining the 8 point lead.
At the 3:30 mark, Pacers' guard Lance Stephenson left the game with an unknown injury. The Suns' aggressiveness in the paint bit them a bit when Tucker was called for a charge, allowing Indiana to close the gap to 4, 21-17 on a pair of Roy Hibbert free throws on the following possession. Tucker made up for it on a wide-open layup on a pretty pass from Marcus Morris.
The Pacers ran a considerable amount of their offense through Hibbert to limited effect. He had 11 points on 11 shots in the first quarter. On the other end, the Pacers had no answer for the Suns' shooters. The Suns' shot 62.5% including for 4 of 5 from 3-point range. Dragi? and Green led the Suns with 8 and 7. Leandro Barbosa capped a 15-2 onslaught with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Phoenix a 36-19 lead.
Did I mention Channing Frye yet? He had 5 first quarter rebounds and 5 points and started the second with some nice transition defense to prevent an easy Pacers bucket. Indiana tried to go on a run scoring 5 quick points to start the quarter, but the Suns were having none of it. The Suns's offensive plan seemed to be "Run, Run, Run!" and responded with 4 points of their own. Lance Stephenson returned to the game looking to take over, scoring 4 straight points to cut the Suns' lead to 14 points at 42-28.
Man, this game was aggressive. Dragi? missed a mid-range jumper at 7:48 and Phoenix stayed after it, with Marcus Moris, Alex Len and Dragi? all getting offensive rebounds and finally resulting in a Gerald Green 3-pointer. An Indiana turnover on the next possession resulted in a Marcus Morris fast break dunk to extend the Suns lead to 47-30. The Suns' lead grew to as much as 19. Again, Indiana tried to start a run, but could not stop the Dragon. The Dragon hit a jumper, assisted Marcus Morris on a jumper and then hit 2 free throws to maintain the 19 point cushion.
Markieff "The Barometer" Morris was hampered by foul trouble early, but Marcus more than picked up the slack with a heat wave of this own, scoring 10 first half points on 5 of 9 shooting. The Suns and Goran Dragi? dominated the half, going to the break with a 66-49 lead. The Suns shot 52.8% to 40.0% for Indiana. Dragic was unstoppable. He finished the half with 21 points on 8-12 shooting and 5 assists. The Lance Stephenson, also with a message for the All-Star voters, was on pace for his 4th triple double of the season, recording 12 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Roy Hibbert had 15 to lead the Pacers' scorers. P.J.Tucker was effective on the Pacers' leading scorer, holding Paul George to 4 points on 2-7 shooting.
The Suns kept the pressure up in the second half with Dragi? missing a jumper and Miles Plumlee missing the 1-handed putback. Not to be deterred, the Dragon drove and dished to Plumlee for an easy jam on their next possession to push the lead back to 19. Indiana put together a 6-0 run to get it to 70-57, but P.J. Tucker drew a shooting foul and hit 1 of 2 to stop the bleeding. Unfortunately, he gave it back by drawing a technical foul for taunting the Pacers' bench afterwards. On the ensuing possession, Paul George completed an and-1 to get the lead down to 10. Plumlee missed then missed a dunk, and then the Suns gave up an offensive rebound to Roy Hibbert allowing him to score. All in all, it was a 12-1 run by the Pacers to get the Suns' advantage down to 71-63. Would the wheels continue to come off?
Yes. Yes, they would. Roy Hibbert continued to have his way inside scoring 8 straight points and the Pacers' defense was smothering, allowing Indiana to draw within 4 points at 75-71. After a Suns' bucket, Dragi? drew a technical after getting called for a phantom reach-in. He was benched for Ish Smith shortly afterwards. David West made a pair of foul shots to cut the lead to 3.
It was a brutal quarter for the Suns, who only made 5 of their 19 field goal attempts (26.3%) and got outscored 25-11. The good news is that they maintained their lead, 77-74.
C.J. Watson hit a lay-up to start the fourth quarter and got the lead all the way down to 1 point. After exchanging some free throws, Marcus Morris nailed a 3-ball to put the Suns up 82-77. The Suns forced turnovers on Indiana's next 2 possessions leading to a Barbosa floater over Ian Mahinmi to get the lead back to 7. In the face of intense defense and a hostile Fieldhouse crowd, the Suns seemed to be maintaining their composure early in the fourth. A Marcus Morris and-1 allowed the Suns to get the lead back into double digits, but the Pacers answered with a 12-2 run to get it back to 91-90 with 4:20 remaining.
As Indiana continued to threaten, Gerald Green went to work, hitting a pair of free throws and long jumper to help Phoenix maintain its suddenly fragile lead. The unusually quiet Markieff Morris hit a big 3 pointer with just under 3 minutes left to go to put the Suns back up by 6. George Hill posted up Dragi? to make it 98-94 with 1:28 left in the game. But as always, The Dragon had an answer! P.J. Tucker trapped Paul George in the corner, forcing him into an awkward 3-point attempt as the shot clock expired. The long rebound led to a one-man fast break ending in a Dragon Dunk to give the Suns a 100-94 lead with a mere 44.8 seconds left in regulation. Roy Hibbert, after a tremendous night, bricked 2 free throws on the ensuing possession and that was it for the Pacers.
Suns win 102-94!
What: Phoenix Suns (27-18, 2nd Pacific) vs. Indiana Pacers (35-9, 1st NBA)
Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse -- Indianaoplis, IN
When: 5:00PM MST
Watch: FoxSports AZ, NBA League Pass
Read: Get the Pacer point of view over at Indy Cornrows
Is there such a thing as an embarrassing win? Last night felt like an embarrassing win. That game should have been over in the first half, the starters should have been sitting for the last 15 minutes or so and Goran Dragi? should have simply been chilling instead of icing his elbow for the last few minutes of the game. That's all water under the bridge at this point, but it all could have a bearing on tonight's game versus the Indiana Pacers.
This is the second time the Phoenix Suns and Pacers meet this season. The first time, the Suns snapped the Pacers' five game winning streak in a 124-100 beatdown that the Suns laid on the Pacers on national television. The Suns had their way with the Pacers, sporting a large lead throughout the game and the only starter who played in the 4th quarter was Channing Frye. Dragi? and Gerald Green had 21 and 23 apiece in the first 3 quarters. Markieff Morris did most of his damage mopping up the mess, scoring 12 of his 20 in the 4th quarter. Paul George led a stymied Pacers squad with 26 points. The Pacers had no answers for the Suns' offense, allowing Phoenix to shoot a scintillating 54.2% from the field and a mind-blowing 68.8% (11-16) from behind the arc.
I know the Pacers have bigger fish to fry this season that splitting the season series with the Suns, but I have a feeling they will be looking to avenge a humiliating loss to an upstart team a couple months removed from being on most pundits' tank list. For the Suns' part, this is their opportunity to go for a "sweep sweep", having wrapped up the season series with wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers already on the first 3 games of this road trip.
The Pacers will be at full strength with no reported injuries. Once again, Eric Bledsoe (knee) and Emeka Okafor (neck) are out for the Suns. Goran Dragi? took a nasty spill on his elbow in the fourth quarter against the Bucks and continued to play well despite some swelling. There has been no update on his condition as of this writing, but Paul Coro reported that X-Rays were negative, though there is concern due to the amount of swelling and a previous injury to the same elbow.
Update: Coro tweeted that the elbow is improving and the Gogi is a game-time decision.
Offensive Rating - 109.3 (8th NBA), Defensive Rating - 105.7 (15th NBA)
Offensive Rating - 105.4 (18th NBA), Defensive Rating - 96.3 (1st NBA)
The Suns maintain a balanced offensive and defensive agenda, while the Pacers are clearly lead by Paul George on the scoring end and Roy Hibbert on the defensive end. While the Pacers are at full strength, if Dragi? is hampered by that elbow injury, Phoenix will be hard pressed to find those 20 points elsewhere on the roster. The Suns' offensive outburst on January 22 was anomalous against a team that normally surrenders a stingy 90.2 points per game. Phoenix played a nearly flawless game last time and will have to do so again in order to beat them on their own court.
F - P.J. Tucker
F- Channing Frye
C - Miles Plumlee
G - Gerald Green
G - Goran Dragi?
F - Paul George
F - David West
C - Roy Hibbert
G - Lance Stephenson
G - George Hill
Take What They Give: The Suns shot the lights out in their first match-up with the Pacers and need to do so again. Indiana holds opponents to a league-low 41.2 FG% and 32.9 3PT%. The Suns need to take advantage of every offensive opportunity a keyed-up Indiana defense gives them.
Dig Deep: This the fourth game in five nights and the second game of a back-to-back for the Phoenix Suns. While none of the starters played more than 30 minutes last night, these are not the ideal circumstances for a rematch with the best team in the association. The Suns will have to find a way to stay sharp and feel fresh to wrap up this road trip with a win.
The Suns' Offense vs. the Suns' Defense: The Suns' offense has been a holy terror the last 2 games, scoring a combined 250 points against the Bucks and 76ers. Unfortunately the defense has been equally holey, allowing the league worst Milwaukee Bucks to score 26 points above their season average and the 76ers to score 12 points above theirs. It will take a complete effort on both ends to come out of Indy with a victory.
I think all signs point to a Suns' loss tonight. There's the #revengegame factor. There's road-weariness for the Suns. There's Goran Dragi?'s elbow. I think Indiana is going to come out with the defensive clamps fully engaged and take it to the Suns from the jump. For the Suns' part, it's a tough end to an otherwise successful road trip. Hopefully the Suns are game for the first 3 quarters, but in the end I think the home team wins pretty easily. 102-90, Pacers.